When Typhoon Odette hit the Philippines in December 2021 and led to prolonged Internet and power outages, many remote workers lost their means to work at the comfort of their homes. Devastating as it was, the typhoon should be a teachable moment for everyone to prepare for the next catastrophe. Here are some tips on disaster preparedness and recovery measures for remote workers.
Pay attention to weather forecast and emergency alerts
Always have an emergency kit and stockpile of food ready. Disasters may happen so suddenly that you won’t have time to go shopping for necessities, although regularly checking the local weather forecast and NDRRMC emergency alerts can help you know what to expect. Being proactive also helps you avoid the masses, who during disasters will be caught up in panic buying and price gouging. Have an adequate amount of cash with you, as ATMs and banks will have long lines or may be unavailable.
Take care of your gadgets and Internet equipment
Power may cut off without notice when disaster strikes, so desktop computers and other devices without battery should be plugged into an uninterruptible power supply to avoid losing any unsaved progress.
Keep in mind that electronic devices are susceptible to water, shock, and other physical damage that disasters may bring. Learn how to protect your computer and create backups to avoid data loss. The same advice should be applied to your routers and modems as bad weather can really mess them up.
Consider temporarily working on mobile devices
Desktop PCs during power outages are useless, so you’ll have to switch to a laptop to continue working in the meantime. Modern products, especially the educational, non-gaming variety, can last up to 16 hours or longer on a single charge. Their portability allows you to bring them with you and charge them at some place where electric power has already been restored.
For better battery life, consider working on a tablet. Just plug in a compatible mouse and keyboard to boost your productivity output. Admittedly, you can only work using simplified Web and mobile apps (like Microsoft Office) on a tablet, but they should do in a pinch if you can’t use their more feature-rich desktop counterparts just yet.
Buy power banks
Electricity may not return for weeks or even months after a disaster, at which point power banks come in useful. A 20,000mAh power bank, which can fully charge a mobile device multiple times, only costs a few thousand pesos these days. If you can afford it, consider even buying a backup generator to power not just your electronics but also your entire home.
Consider getting a second fixed Internet connection from another ISP
Based on experience and what fellow customers usually say on social media, technicians and contractors of ISPs are quick to respond when you sign up for new subscriptions but take several days or weeks to address repairs and other after-sales services. In my case, almost two months after Odette went by before I was able to use my fiber internet again.
To reduce your downtime, consider having at least two fixed Internet subscriptions at home from different ISPs. A backup connection lets you remain online should your main connection suffer a prolonged service disruption. You may take advantage of temporary disconnections/deactivations to cycle between your subscriptions, so that only one is active at a time and you don’t have to incur a larger bill.
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Consider switching to mobile networks
Another observation I had in the aftermath of Odette is that restoration of mobile networks was the priority over wired networks. It made sense, too, since given the ubiquity of smartphones today more people could get back online faster. The phones could also be turned into temporary Wi-Fi hotspots, so other devices can get online.
As there’s no surefire way to know when the next disaster will be, specifically one that’s strong enough to bring down the country’s digital infrastructure and internet connectivity again, subscribing to no-expiry data promos is wise. By doing so, you don’t have to worry about losing your data allotment even when you’re not using it or when mobile networks at your location goes down. Some no-expiry data promos currently available are GOMO (30GB for Php299, 40GB for Php359) and Smart Magic Data (up to 48GB for Php599).
If you need unlimited data, you may also consider using Smart Bro’s Rocket SIM.
Look for government and community assistance
Restoration of mobile networks may be a priority, but such colossal undertaking may take days or more. Finding a temporary workstation with a good signal can still be a challenge during the first few days after a disaster. Luckily, you’re not alone in this. You can look to your community for resources. And remember to share and donate what you can spare too.
For example, some IT developers in Cebu set up the website Tabangay.com so people affected by Odette could share and ask for resources. Cell signal? Gas? Operational ATMs? Drinking water? The website let people know thanks to crowdsourced information. Similarly, on Facebook you can visit Community Help to request or offer help in your community.
And lastly, don’t forget to seek help from the local government and private establishments. Typical free services provided in the aftermath of disasters include calamity assistance/loans, charging stations, free phone calls, and free Wi-Fi.